The following graphic has been circulating around Facebook the past couple of days. Thing is, like all of the material unleashed on the FOX-washed base that fishes to confuse Progressives, it’s based on almost comic misunderstanding of our Congress and the rules under which it operates. Here, I explain why the: “Congressional Reform Act of 2011” propaganda piece is BUSTED!
OK, first, I’ll just go ahead and print out the demands this piece falsely claiming to be part of some “Congressional Reform Act” is not from any act. If ever Congress — even one where their presidential frontrunner publishes an economic package stolen from Sim City — came out with something this ignorant, we’d be in *big trouble.* The first thing I’m going to do is transcribe the “demands” it makes just so you’ll be able to cross reference what I’ll be ripping to shreds for you.
1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman collects a salary while in office and
receives no pay when they are out of office.
2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in
the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system
immediately.All future funds flow into the Social Security system and
Congress participateswith the American people. It may not be used for any
other purposes. Congresscan purchase their own retirement plan, just as all
4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will
rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same
health care system as the American people.
6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12.
The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen.
Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is
an honor, not a career. The founding fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so
ours should serve their term(s),then go home and back to work.
*Sigh* This is *all* dangerously false-information . . . the kind of propaganda that is released into the wild from the bowels of right-wing think tanks to drum up fear amongst a base of people too uneducated to discern reality for themselves. And, this is a fascist propaganda technique and is dangerous to any democracy. I’m going to break it down in order:
CONGRESS AND SOCIAL SECURITY
This fake Act demands that members of Congress be forced to “participate in Social Security.” But, members of Congress already participate, paying Social Security payroll taxes just like nearly every other worker in the U.S.. Once upon a time that wasn’t true, but members of Congress were brought under Social Security way back in 1984. It’s testament to the results of thirty years of Republican dismantling of our education system that things like this are still circulated. OK, I’ll move on to the next one:
The fake Act demands that “Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose.” Whoever put this together is depending on the probability of your having stopped paying attention 17 years ago. The idea that Congress has exempted itself from many of its own laws happens to be just *that* out of date.
A law enacted in 1995 applied 13 civil rights, labor, and workplace safety / health Laws to Congress, removing whatever would have earlier in our history been a basis for criticism. It’s true that members of Congress retain a degree of immunity from arrest or prosecution, but changing that would require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which grants that immunity in Article I, Section 6. And, it’d be wise before doing this to consult the authors of the Constitution and ask them just why this article was included in the first place. See, they didn’t want any president to try what King Charles I of England had done in 1642.
What exactly was it King Charles did, you ask? Well, he sent troops to arrest his critics in Parliament. That’s a power dictators have, so be careful what you allow some right-wing writer to ask for you. Next?
The fake Act calls for Congress to recuse itself from ever voting themselves a pay raise. Only thing that makes this wrong is that it’s just . . . well, wrong. Do people even read what they’re posting? Seriously, who doesn’t know this stuff? To review the basics for our teabagging friends who are passing this around: under current U.S. law, pay increases are determined by a cost-of-living formula. They take effect automatically unless Congress votes to stop them.
And as a matter of fact, that’s what has happened for the past two years. Congress denied itself any pay raise in 2010 and in 2011. Moving on.
This fake Act calls for stripping members of Congress of their current health care benefits and forcing them to participate “in the same health care system as the American people.” But which “system” would this be?
Most Americans are covered either by employer-sponsored health insurance or by various government-sponsored programs, such as Medicare for those age 65 and over or Medicaid for lower-income persons. Currently members of Congress have the same health insurance options as millions of other federal employees and retirees and their families. The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program gives them a wide choice of private insurance plans.
And I just checked the U.S. Census Bureau, and nearly 51 million persons in the U.S. had no health insurance at all in 2009 — just under 17 percent of the population. The right-wing authors of this fake Act are trying to give the false impression that Congress somehow “exempted” itself from our President’s Health Care Reform Law. It’s utter nonsense that was based on a number of misrepresentations that FOX “News” drooled out to their uneducated Tea Party base who believes any lie fed them. In fact, the final version of the health care reform legislation that was eventually passed in March 2010 stated that members of Congress and congressional staff will only have access to plans that are created by the health care bill or offered through the exchanges established by the bill:
(D) MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IN THE EXCHANGE.
(i) REQUIREMENT Notwithstanding any other provision of law, after the
effective date of this subtitle, the only health plans that the Federal
Government may make available to Members of Congress and
congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of
Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are:
(I) created under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act); or
(II) offered through an Exchange established under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act).
This “Act” goes on to suggest that members of Congress should “purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.” But that’s also nearly moronic nonsense. Relatively few Americans buy retirement plans entirely out of their own pockets. As a matter of fact, just a little under half of all Americans worked in 2009 for an employer that sponsors a retirement plan, according to the most recent information from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (yeah, I pay attention to this stuff, because we live in a media system that gets away with passing lies like these off with impunity).
And, among those who worked full time for the entire year, 54 percent actually participated in an employer-sponsored plan. About 12 percent are self-employed, EBRI says, and so may be in a position to buy a retirement plan for themselves. But 27 percent had incomes of under $10,000 that year, too little to be putting much if anything away for retirement. Next?
CONGRESSIONAL TERM LIMITS?
The piece ends by advocating setting 12-year term limits on members of Congress, saying they “should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.” Lobbying, I suppose. It also call for voiding “all contracts” with past and present members of Congress, which I’m reading as a clumsy way of calling for cutting off all pension and health care benefits even for those who have already retired. (I’m not sure what “contracts” whoever wrote this was thinking of.) This is an *opinion,* and anyone who runs into this right-wing hit piece can choose to agree or disagree with it. Whatever. But, it’s kind of low-rent the winger arguing for these opinions by making factual claims that betray a profound ignorance of the system this fake “Act” is proposing to “reform.”
In summary, this right-wing graphic and fake “Act” is confused, at first mentioning earlier constitutional amendments, but then describing the proposal as an “act,” which refers to legislation. This ignorant piece lacks any respect for history, and the author either doesn’t have the basic understanding of *why* our founders passed such basic laws, or they want to confuse yours. Don’t let them. Ever again.
Please feel free to pass this on, because these ignorant right-wing propaganda pieces need to be answered for. They’re part of the reason that so many people in America remain too ignorant to make decisions that affect the republic.
[UPDATE1 11:45 PM]
Couple things: I’ve also heard people claiming that Congresspersons making over $200,000 per year don’t pay into SSC. It’s not true. It’s all in the following two links. The first is the frequently asked questions. The second is actually the original 1983 Bill
IRS FAQ: http://www.ssa.gov/history/hfaq.html
EVERYONE pays Social Security. Everyone. And, everyone gets Social Security back.
However, your President is currently working on having the wealthy put back into the system: He’s making it so that people making $200,000 or more don’t get PAID Social Security. They’ll still have to pay it. http://bitly.com/SSCandRich